Trick-or-Treating Down Memory Lane

Photo courtesy of Lisa Ishikawa
Marengo Elementary School classmates in costumes gather at a Halloween party in 1945 or 1946.

Ah, Halloween.
A child’s dream.
Costumes. Candy. Carefree roaming through the neighborhood with a bag full of treats.
It hasn’t been what it used to be for a while, and this year state health officials have strongly discouraged trick-or-treating because of the dangers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t recall Halloweens past, and there are still reminders of what was and what will probably be again.
Clara Richards has memories of a scary display at her house. Her husband, Dick — a former mayor of South Pasadena, now deceased — would get dressed up as a vampire and rise up from a coffin placed on the front porch.
“Halloween was always big in our lives,” said Richards, the mother of nine children. “Everyone made their own costumes that they got from yard sales. My husband and I used to dress up and give children cookies and candy.”
If you can remember when children got cookies and candy in their goodie bags, you can appreciate the memories of many graduates of South Pasadena High School, who did their trick-or-treating around South Pasadena. Many of them, now long grown, responded to a questionnaire that I asked alumni President Michael Thurman to post on Facebook.
What stood out to me was how safe the children felt wandering the streets in often handmade costumes. So many people recalled how much they enjoyed getting popcorn balls and candy on their favorite street and in their favorite neighborhoods. Some of the people recalled knowing where their teachers lived and passed out goodies. There was also a lot of mention of a Halloween festival at Marengo Elementary School, trick-or-treating for UNICEF and an occasional mea culpa for “tricks” long ago but not forgotten. People also remembered vividly who they went trick-or-treating with, and what kind of treats they received and from whose house.
Here are a few of the memories recalled by SPHS alums. I have included as many graduation dates from high school as Thurman could provide. “They are now scattered all over the place,” he said:
Patricia LeCount, class of 1961: “Maycrest Avenue was like Mayberry. All us kids went door to door together on the block. That was it, no further. We had no worries of crazy razors, broken glass or drugs. Most treats were handmade, though if they were just thrown in our goodie bag, many weren’t really good after bouncing along, popcorn with chocolate chip cookies, candy corn and such.”
Janet Douglas: “I loved Halloween time in SP in the ’60s. At Marengo, the annual Halloween carnival was so much fun. Lots to do … Trick-or-treating included meeting up with friends and going to the best streets with the biggest candy bars. Lots of homemade treats were given out and enjoyed too, like candy apples, popcorn balls and cookies. It certainly was a wonderful time to be young in SP.”
Becky Telleson, class of 1976: “Halloween in South Pas was always great when we were kids. The town was so close and safe we could run all over the place. Buena Vista was great. Floral Park Terrace always had a wicked haunted house. My fondest memory is when my brother, sister and I got pre-carved pumpkins in the mail from someone.”
Lisa Ishikawa sent along a photo of a Halloween party at a Marengo class in either 1945 or 1946.
Barbara Estey, class of 1975: “My neighborhood around La France Ave. was the best. In my young days, we had the pre-made masks with the elastic string around the back of the head, but my mom always made sure I was in full costume. I was a flamenco dancer when I was 6. The wonderful thing about South Pasadena was I took my two young children on the same trick-or-treat route years later and it warmed my heart to see them visit the same neighbors I had as a kid. There was an old lady that was still there from when I was a kid and she opened the door and greeted my kids in the exact same and kind greeting. How joyful.”
Leanne Haskins, class of 1975: “I’m a So Pasadena kid, one of five children. We grew up on Fletcher Street with an entire street full of kids that all had handmade costumes, mostly from our parents’ closets … I don’t think any of us realized how lucky we were to grow up in such a wonderful, protective, safe environment with great friends. You could go treating all over town with a huge group of kids and come home with a pillowcase full of candy. The only rule in our house was mom got to pick through and get what we wanted.”
Natalia Leonard, class of 1969: “One of the best days of the year! Most memorable costume. A beautiful Sleeping Beauty costume my grandmother sewed for me which was made of a light yellow satin with gold glitter trim — awesome.”
Lorraine Gutierrez, class of 1972: “I really wanted to go to Raymond Hill because we heard they had the best candy, but my mother wouldn’t let me. My favorite costume was a skeleton one that my mother got for me at the five and ten store on Fair Oaks.”
Scott Stevenson, class of 1977: “Halloween of 1975, me and a buddy decided on a different approach to the event. I had a Nixon mask and he had a Kissinger, which comprised the totality of our ‘costumes’ as streaking was in full swing at the time. We traded treats for the trick that year, since being fleet of foot was a priority and terrorized the neighborhood around Marengo, Mission and Oxley. Definitely one memorable Halloween and hopefully any statute of limitations has long expired.”
Nora Baxter Capek, class of 1966: “I sure miss those days. They were much simpler then.
“Damn, I sound like my grandmother.”